Methane Emission Reductions Are Getting More ‘Challenging’ But Industry Is Making Progress
Significant knowledge gaps remain to meet 2030 targets for methane emissions reductions, says the chief executive of a Canadian-based organization that facilitates collaborative R&D and technology developments.
Technologies developed to date to reduce methane emissions have addressed “low-hanging fruit,” and future reductions in this area are “going to be much more challenging and difficult,” Soheil Asgarpour, president and CEO of Petroleum Technology Alliance Canada (PTAC), said during a technical forum on Wednesday at the World Petroleum Congress.
The session focused on pathways towards zero methane emissions.
Both Canada and the United States have committed to the Global Methane Pledge, and Canada’s target is to reduce oil and gas methane emissions by at least 75 per cent below 2012 levels by 2030.
But significant knowledge gaps remain to achieve the 75 per cent reduction target, as well as to reach net zero. Asgarpour said those gaps exist for tanks, engine methane slip, surface casing vent flow (SCVF)/leaky wells, catalytic heaters, flaring alternatives and novel pneumatics.
Still, he said the methane emissions innovation ecosystem built with the broad PTAC network of governments, producers, academia and technology providers has delivered tangible results, continues to grow, and is ready to tackle the 75 per cent challenge.
He noted the Canadian Emissions Reduction Innovation Consortium (CanERIC) 2.0 program was developed to reach the 75 per cent reduction level by 2030.
And PTAC says it has already met its goal of developing, field testing and demonstrating technologies that collectively have the capacity to reduce the sector’s methane emissions by more than 45 per cent.
These technologies are not only currently reducing methane emission in Canada, but also are helping global reduction of methane emissions.
“Methane is a global challenge … and requires global collaboration,” said Asgarpour.
The pathway to zero emissions
The moderator of the session, Antonio Lopez-Rodriguez, head of energy transition and climate change for Repsol, also emphasized the importance of global collaboration.
He noted four steps must be covered in order to be on a pathway to zero emissions.
The starting point is an accurate methane emissions inventory, while the second step is having a reduction plan.
“We need technology and innovation in order to implement the first two steps. Technology and innovation to detect, to quantify, and to reduce methane emissions.”
Next, it’s important to have a stable regulatory framework to incentivize the opportunities and in order to proceed with the opportunities in a cost-effective manner, said Lopez-Rodriguez.
“Finally, we need capital to invest and to put into practice all the actions we identified in our reduction plans,” he said.
Company-specific modelling needed
Thomas Fox, president of Highwood Emissions Management, noted novel technologies are emerging to detect and quantify methane emissions, including handheld instruments, continuous sensors, vehicles, drones, aircraft and satellites.
Moreover, dozens of companies have emerged over the past decade offering diverse products and services.
These technologies differ significantly, however, and are unfamiliar to operators.
“The conversation … is about how to choose technologies,” Fox said. “We work with a lot of oil and gas companies who are a little bit confused about the landscape of innovation and how to make decisions around what technologies to choose.”
Fox said open-source simulation tools like the Leak Detection and Repair Simulator (LDAR-Sim) have enabled testing of different solutions in virtual environments.
Companies usually think about monitoring technologies that reduce fugitive emissions separately from reducing their vented emission or their known emissions sources, he noted.
“And they don’t usually think about those things in a holistic approach alongside of safety considerations.”
Fox’s presentation to the technical forum was based on a study that brings together all of those elements into a single analysis, so that operators can start to consider different technology options simultaneously when deciding how to achieve emissions reduction targets.
“The key takeaway here is that understanding how to achieve methane emissions reduction targets requires a bespoke understanding of what your emissions are, where they’re coming from and how large they’re likely to be in order to make sensible decisions about how to achieve your targets and reduce methane emissions.”
Meanwhile, a set of open-source protocols have been developed to create a transparent and consistent approach to measuring methane emissions.
Called Veritas, the initiative is led by GTI Energy (initiative leaders include Highwood Emissions Management and SLR).
More than 35 companies are helping to shape the development of the protocols, which cover six segments of the natural gas supply chain: production; gathering and boosting; processing; transmission and storage; distribution; and LNG.
The protocols will enable countries and companies with methane reduction targets to report reductions in a consistent and verifiable way.
Amanda Harmon, senior manager, programs, at GTI Energy, said the five technical protocols cover measurement, reconciliation, methane emissions intensity, value chain summation as well as assurance.
One of the aims of Veritas, Harmon said, is to “take the data that’s coming from all of these technologies and make it transparent for all stakeholders.”
Those stakeholders include oil and gas companies, the investment community as well as environmental NGOs, she said.
The most recent round of protocols testing wrapped up last month, with Version 2 to be published in December.
Oman case study
A case study presentation closed the session, and outlined the assessment process taken by Petroleum Development Oman LLC (PDO) to determine how best to recover routine flare gas at 11 scattered oil production stations in the south of the Sultanate of Oman.
The flare sources are from dehydration tanks (atmospheric pressure).
Saif Al-Humaimi, process and concept engineer at PDO, said five potential technologies were screened: flare to gas process; flare to LNG; flare to CNG; flare to power, and flare to liquid.
“Flare to power is the most feasible option technically because it’s low cost and there’s no byproducts,” Al-Humaimi said.
Moreover, the technology is mature globally and even locally.
To advance the project, and to reduce capital costs, PDO has signed a sales gas agreement with a third party that will convert the gas to power.
The technology will be implemented at one of the stations in the first quarter of 2024.
“We’re in the final stages of contracting. So it’d be the first project in the Middle East to have digital mining for our data centre powered by waste gas.”